Opinion Dirk Torfs: "The smart industry of the future is sustainable, digitised and competitive"

Opinion Dirk Torfs: "The smart industry of the future is sustainable, digitised and competitive"

The corona crisis, the largest influx of refugees into Europe since World War 2, rising energy prices, inflation, and so on. These are, to put it mildly, turbulent times. Our companies also face special challenges. And this after two very difficult years already. Fortunately, our companies are showing resilience and continue to invest in innovation. Dirk Torfs, CEO at Flanders Make, is looking to the future positively.

Various Flemish and federal initiatives, such as Flanders Make's 'digitisation accelerator plan', are supporting companies in their recovery after 2 years of Covid misery. The goal is to achieve a sustainable transformation of our companies and our economy. We believe that a smart industry with future potential should be sustainable, digitised, and competitive and that any business transformation is best built on these pillars. In this way, we can continue to lead in a globalised economy.


Sustainability is one of the key factors for a smart industry that fits in the current social and economic climate. Especially now that the prices of fuel, natural gas and electricity are breaking record after record. But sustainability is about more than just energy. A smart industry rests on four pillars:

  1. green economy with more focus on energy efficiency and electrification.
  2. human economy focused on workable work, upskilling and reskilling.
  3. An ecosystem economy that builds sustainable partnerships with companies and knowledge institutions to realise more complex processes.
  4. circular economy that considers concepts such as lifetime provisioning, remanufacturing and smart maintenance as the new norm.
Dirk Torfs, CEO Flanders Make

"The differentiator for industrial players to initiate a sustainable transformation lies in the relationship between man, machine and domain knowledge."

Dirk Torfs

CEO Flanders Make


Another aspect that contributes to the development of smart industry is the competitiveness of manufacturing companies. More than ever, customers are demanding customised solutions in small volumes. Companies that manage to keep their design and production costs under control can thus remain competitive in the global market. End-to-end digitalisation is a key element in this. It allows companies to respond in a flexible and automated way to the continuously changing customer demands and the design and production adjustments required for this.

The distinguishing capacity for industrial players to initiate a sustainable transformation therefore lies in the relationship between man, machine, and domain knowledge. Accelerated implementation of digital solutions and extra attention to sustainability and competitiveness are the necessary cocktail to further expand our prosperous economy under pressure from international superpowers. I am already optimistic: I see a positive dynamic within Flanders Make: we work intensively together and create social and industrial impact with our research in each of the key areas towards a smart industry.

This article (Dutch only) first appeared on Planet Business


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Dirk Torfs, CEO

Dirk Torfs is CEO of Flanders Make since 2014. Dirk is a Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineer as well as a Doctor in Applied Sciences (KU Leuven). He has over 20 years of experience in management positions in the Flemish industry and is Professor of Quantitative Decision-Making for the Executive MBA programme of the Flanders Business School.